What is This Thing Called Love?
Love of food, the love of action movies and the love of our spouse or children are all different forms of love.
But true love, as taught by Buddha, is the wish that others be happy and free from suffering. In samsara, this is impossible.
In this short summary from Eight Steps To Happiness by *Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, I will attempt to explain how this amazing teaching has transformed this ‘little black alcoholic’. And I’ll then show how the simple meditation that accompanies this lesson makes tremendous progress in our search for peace.
There are three forms of love that we must develop in our quest for everlasting peace and happiness—enlightenment.
As a mother observes her only child, we start with affectionate love, and that leads us to want to make the child happy with cherishing love. In order to cherish our loved one, we wish that they be happy. This wish is impossible to be fulfilled in samsara, so we wish that the never-ending cycle of suffering be ended and that she attain the happiness of enlightenment.
This is wishing love.
In samsara, we desire many things that we think will make us happy, but they are all unsatisfying. Buddha speaks of ‘changing suffering’—that experience of having temporary relief from pain. When we obsess about a drink and take that drink, we get changing suffering. Nothing that ultimately leads to more suffering can be a true source of happiness, but we crave these things all the time.
Even eating gives temporary satisfaction.
When we fall in love with someone new, we think that they will make us happy, but no one can always live up to our expectations. Inevitably, they will fail me, but they can’t be blamed. It is my mind that is dissatisfied by desires unfulfilled.
If the one closest to us cannot live up to our needs, then how can anyone else? It would lead any man to drink!
This is the nature of samsara. It is like sitting on a pin. Every way that you adjust yourself, there is no way to be comfortable.
And yet, in this truth is the beginning of a method for outstanding results. It’s similar to handing your will over to the care of a Higher Power. It feels so good.
Firstly, imagine your loved ones are right in front of you, and wish that they were truly happy and free from suffering.
If you get that loving feeling, extend it to all other sentient beings. How many of your own problems can you think about whilst doing this?
Meditation Makes Perfect
Becoming adept at this meditation is unbelievable. Whenever someone lets you down and makes you angry, just adopt this space in your mind and whammy.
The pain that we normally experience is gone and replaced with profound benefits for all concerned.
This love is also known as ‘immeasurable’ because the benefits are immeasurable. Here are some of them.
- Meditating of affectionate and wishing love leads to enlightenment.
- We will receive great loving kindness from other sentient beings.
- We will be protected in many ways from harm.
- We will feel mentally happy all the time.
- We experience great health.
- We will obtain all necessary conditions.
- We will avoid harm from weapons and other things.
- We will be reborn in a Buddha Land.
Apart from these great blessings, the people that seem to annoy us or want to cause us harm, will serve another purpose.
Realising that samsara is full of delusions and suffering, we are constantly reminded by the actions of others how we must practise in order to escape. This wish to escape samsara forever is called renunciation, and it is necessary for us to continue the virtuous path on the spiritual journey.
For instance, when someone whom I had helped and had great admiration for does harm to me, I am reminded of karma. The only reason this is happening to me is that I have done this action to others in this or past lives. With this in mind, I take responsibility for this and accept the disappointment, seeing that the other person is in fact my Spiritual Guide.
Likewise, I can see others in their delusions as a reminder that we are all in delusion in samsara and the only way to attain lasting happiness is to practise Dharma and seek full enlightenment.
Furthermore, others’ behaviour teaches me patience, and there is hardly anything that I need to learn more than patience. When my friends let me down, I am reminded that samsara is always suffering and changing suffering. Therefore, I must practise and seek more realisations to attain the happiness of a Buddha.
It is said that alcoholics often move location to escape the suffering in their environment, but everywhere I go, there I am. And so is samsara.
There is nowhere to hide in this life and for all our lives to come. Only when we attain nirvana in a Buddha land will we be able to maintain perfect peace and happiness. When I realise this, with renunciation, I can practise the three higher trainings of Ethics, Concentration, and Wisdom.
Alcoholics And The Higher Trainings
Alcoholics that want to follow this course of reasoning and action will be rewarded with a stable platform, not that dissimilar to what has been successful in the 12-Step Fellowships.
- The acceptance that we are powerless over externals.
- The relief that a Higher Power could be sought with certainty.
- When an ethical life is lead, peace of mind is possible.
- Being mindful of others and helping when you can bring great results.
- Meditation is the secret ingredient in the magical elixir.
- Love and patience are our code.
Happiness in samsara is like a water bubble. It is quickly burst, leaving us looking for more.
Wishing others to be happy is a sure and fast way to forget about our temporary suffering and focus on the importance of loving others and wishing them happiness. In this way, we accumulate great merit, understand the delusions of this life, and practise the proven path to enlightenment~the three Higher Trainings motivated by renunciation.
*Geshe-la passed away 12 months ago at time of writing. Om mani padme hum.